Carlos Alcaraz lost the first two games of his debut at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Saturday, but he grew into the match against fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas and ultimately cruised to a 6-4, 6-1 victory in Rome.

By stepping onto the court at the Foro Italico, Alcaraz guaranteed himself a return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on 22 May, following the ATP Masters 1000 event. But the 20-year-old showed his hunger for a third straight ATP Tour title, following his triumphs in Barcelona and Madrid, by extending his winning streak against Spanish opposition to nine matches.

With his 12th straight victory overall, Alcaraz improved to 30-2 this season, including a perfect 14-0 mark against players outside the Top 50.

“It wasn’t easy. The first round of every tournament is really tough and of course Albert Ramos, especially on clay, is a really tough opponent,” Alcaraz said of his debut performance, which was delayed by rain earlier in the day. “I had to adapt my game really quickly to be able to get though. The conditions weren’t easy as well, the rain, the waiting all day. I didn’t know if I was going to play or not. But I’m really happy with my performance at the end and really happy to be able to play in the next round.”

The relentless power and depth off the 20-year-old’s racquet wore down his opponent, and a run of five straight games from 4-4 in the opening set shifted the match decisively in Alcaraz’s favour. After dropping serve in the opening game of the match, Alcaraz did not face another break point as he hit through the heavy centre-court conditions with ease, finishing with 28 winners.

Three years ago, Alcaraz earned his first ATP Tour win in a third-set tie-break against Ramos-Vinolas in Rio de Janeiro. The countrymen also squared off in Umag last season and in the Roland Garros second round last year, when Alcaraz advanced in five sets. The relatively one-sided nature of Alcaraz’s Rome victory against the 35-year-old is just the latest example of his evolution into one of the games most feared players on any surface.

Ramos-Vinolas was denied his third Top 5 win and what could have been his first such victory since beating then-World No. 1 Andy Murray at the 2017 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.

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